Painting a School Outing

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Painting a School Outing
Beaver Pond, Mactaquac

The yellow of the school bus is easy, but
what colors do you give the rainbow of kids
arcing out through the exit? And how do you
portray their energy, their noise, their origins
when such a variety of accents assaults
your ears and drives the wildlife into silence?

What colors would Rimbaud have given to
their vowels, their consonants, their high-pitched
tones? You can sketch their orderly rows as they snack
on the top-hat magic pulled out of backpacks.
But it’s not so easy to paint the pop of cans,
the scent of chocolate bars, or the crackle of chips
released from packets and popped into mouths.

Running round after lunch, they drive the wild
birds wild with their unorganized games of tag,
their impromptu dances, their three-legged races,
their winners and losers, their joys and sorrows.
Fishing nets are produced from nowhere. Girls,
boys wander to water’s edge in search of prey:
incipient frogs, newts, tadpoles, bullheads, but
how do you paint the wet and wriggle of them?

Try painting this. Whistles sound. Kids regroup.
The bus reloads and goes. Now paint the silence.
Sketch the tranquility of woods, bird-calls back,
of the beaver pond with its lilies stretching their
green necks skywards towards a pale blue sky
where cotton clouds cluster together in celestial
flocks. A pastoral scene, this painter’s paradise.

Comment: The woodcut was a gift from my fellow KIRA artist in residence (May-June, 2021), Anne Stillwell-Leblanc. It goes well with this poem about nature, noise, and the absence, then presence, of silence. For those of you who do not know the Beaver Pond at Mactaquac, it is well-worth a visit. My thanks to Anne for her permission to use her art work.

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